Sunday, January 2, 2011

Slap Yo Mamma Shrimp Creole

Lately I've been watching a lot of the show No Reservations on the Travel Channel. The Boy loves Anthony Bourdain, and since I love food and cooking (ok, and traveling) so much, I don't mind spending a Sunday morning curled up on the couch watching AB travel around the globe and sample some pretty delectable (and pretty grotesque) dishes. Sorry Anthony, but sheep's head is just not on this foodie's menu. Maybe one day I'll man up enough and try it, but for now I'll keep to foods that don't stare at me while I'm trying to figure out where exactly to begin the approach with my fork.

Today we watched a re-run of Anthony's "Tour de New Orleans," and after watching him devour some of my favorite dishes (po-boys, flounder with crab meat piled high from Antoine's, a down-home crab boil, etc), I became inspired to make my own creole feast. I am, after all, part French-Cajun, and spent my first years in the kitchen with my paternal grandmother, Nanny, watching as she served up mouth-watering fare like Seafood Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, and, of course, Shrimp Creole - all paired with a salad and real French Bread that my grandfather, Pop, would bring home special from New Orleans (they only lived about an hour away).

I use to have a great Shrimp Creole recipe courtesy of Nanny (which she learned from Pop's mother, a full French-creole), but after so many moves over the last 8-9 years, I've managed to misplace it. The one I found from Cooking Louisiana is pretty close (as far as I remember), so here it is, renamed Slap Yo Mamma Shrimp Creole because, as many of the Ragin' Cajuns like to say, "It's so good, it'll make you wanna slap yo mamma!" But please don't.

You will need:

2 lbs. medium shrimp, shells on
2 16 oz cans Cajun stewed tomatoes (or you can use regular stewed tomatoes if you can't find the Cajun kind), chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere's, but whatever)
1 tsp sugar (it neutralizes the acid in the tomatoes)
1 c. water or shrimp stock (see below for how to make the stock)
2 TBSP flour
3 TBSP vegetable oil

This recipe is best if you don't mind taking the time to make the shrimp stock. If you get your shrimp from the Seafood counter at the grocery store, you should be able to get de-veined, shells-on, medium raw shrimp. All you need to do is peel the shrimp, rinse the peels, put them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then add a pinch of stock and boil for 5 mins. Let cool, then strain the stock. You can freeze any of the unused stock and use again!

To prepare the creole, you'll need a dutch oven or large pot. Make a blonde roux by combining the vegetable oil and flour and stirring over low heat. Add the onions, and saute for about 10 mins. Add the bell pepper and celery, and saute another 15 mins. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves and continue to cook for 30-40 mins on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Add the stock (or water) and sugar; bring to a boil stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add green onions and parsley and stir. Simmer for 20 mins covered, stirring every 5 mins. If it looks to thin (it should be about the consistency of gravy), you can add a bit more flour. Add the seasoning and shrimp and simmer for about 3-5 mins, stirring frequently. Taste and add seasoning as needed. Remove bay leaves and serve over rice, with some fresh French bread if you have! TIP: As with most Creole dishes, the longer you allow the mixture to sit and "marry," the better it will taste. I recommend at least an hour on very low heat, but the longer the better. This is a great dish to make the day before, and then allow to sit in the fridge overnight before re-warming.

I love Creole food, especially in the winter. The dishes are hot, flavorful, and filling. Shrimp Creole is fantastic not only because it fulfills all your desires (see above), but because it's surprisingly low in fat and calories (note the absence of my signature ingredient, butter). Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! Let the Good Times Roll!

Shrimp Creole over rice

Disclaimer: AJ's Kitchen does not advocate violence, and does not condone the slapping of anyone, mother or not. No mothers were harmed during the making of this recipe.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tony's Yummy Homemade Ravioli

I'm calling this recipe Tony's Homemade Ravioli because I made it for him one day when he was under the weather, and he LOVED it. Also, he gave me my pasta maker for Christmas (sounds weird, but you don't know how much I'd been wanting one!) and helped me roll out the pasta dough when I couldn't figure out how to use said pasta maker. All in all, he's one heck of a boyfriend, even when he's a bit sicky.

After trying unsuccessfully to make the ravioli entirely out of wheat flour, I used a white-wheat blend. The dough does take a bit of time, and I actually made 2 batches before getting it right. Also, I highly recommend purchasing a pasta maker with a ravioli attachment - I couldn't imagine making this without one. I stuffed the pasta with a ricotta-spinach mixture, and used a store-bought sauce that I jazzed up a bit with fresh ingredients. As Tony put it, "This is amazing."

For the dough, you will need:
1 c. wheat flour
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. water

Clean a large work surface that will be large enough to roll out the dough. You can also work on waxed paper (easy cleanup!) but I do recommend you tape it down. Sift flours and salt together, then place on work surface in a pyramid shape. Make a well in the center of the pyramid, and add the eggs. Using your hands, knead the egg into the flour slowly, adding water until the dough is the right consistency (it should be a smooth ball of dough, but not too sticky). Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 15 mins.

Meanwhile, make your filling:

15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 1/5 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh spinach, chopped (I have no idea how much I used, but I'd say about a cup)
S&P to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make ravioli: Again, I suggest using a pasta maker with a ravioli attachment. This will also take some practice, but after awhile you'll get the hang of it and have delicious, uniform, perfect ravioli's and your dinner guests will be super impressed!

Freshly-filled raviolis, waiting to be cooked

For sauce, you will need:
1 jar Classico Four Cheese Alfredo sauce (I was too lazy to make homemade)
2 medium-sized grilled chicken breasts (we grilled 4 the night before and used the leftovers), sliced
1 container baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced (if needed)
2-3 cloves of garlic (or you can use garlic powder to taste)
Crushed red pepper (to taste)
S&P (to taste)

Saute the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat, and then add remainder of ingredients. Cook until all ingredients are warm through, and bubbly. Serve over cooked ravioli, and garnish with Parmesan cheese. YUMMMMM!!! :)

Finished product - it was fantastic!

Christmas Candy

Every Christmas, I make 3 kinds of treats. Sometimes I make more, and my mom usually has her own set of delicious sweet goodness to add, but there are 3 things that I always make: chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint bark, and peanut butter balls. The chocolate covered pretzels are by far my favorite, but the peanut butter balls are usually the favorite among friends and family. And the peppermint bark's so easy, I can't help but make it! So here's the recipes for all 3!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

You will need:
1 lb bag of pretzels
1-2 bags white chocolate chips
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips

Melt the white chocolate, either using a double boiler method (which I prefer), or in the microwave (if in microwave, I suggest nuking 30 seconds at a time, and stirring in between). Dip the pretzels in chocolate, and lay aside on wax paper to cool. After dipping the pretzels, melt the milk chocolate and drizzle over. DELISH!

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

You will need:
2-3 bags white chocolate chips
1 box red and green candy canes

Crush candy canes into small pieces. Melt the white chocolate (described above) and add crushed candy canes. Stir, and then pour mixture onto a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Allow to cool, and then break bark into pieces. Great for gifts and super easy!

Peanut Butter Balls

You will need:
1 stick butter, softened
2 lbs creamy peanut butter
3 lbs powdered sugar
1-2 bags milk chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, combine butter and peanut butter and mix until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until mixture is thick and dough-like. Roll into bite-sized balls, place on waxed paper, and place in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (this will help when you dip them). Melt chocolate, dip, and place back on waxed paper. Allow to cool. These are super-rick, and you, your friends and family will LOVE! :)

Peanut Butter Balls and Peppermint Bark

Finally... An Update!

So I'm going to have to apologize to all my readers for the delay in blog recipe posting in the last 6 weeks (or so). Life got pretty hairy between Thanksgiving, finals, Christmas, and now. But I have a few weeks off and hope you'll accept my apologies and enjoy these delicious recipes!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

You will need:
12 slices of bacon
2/3 c. margarine (but I like to use butter, of course)
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
7 c. milk
4 large baking potatoes
4 green onions, chopped
1 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. sour cream
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Wrap potatoes in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1-1.5 hours. When soft, set aside to cool. Cook bacon, crumble, and set aside. In a stock pot of Dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened (this will take some time, so don't worry if it doesn't get thick for awhile). Scoop out potatoes and add to stock, along with green onions. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 mins. Mix in bacon, cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Health(ier)" Swedish Meatballs

As winter approaches, I crave warm, heavier comfort foods. However, considering all the baking I've been doing on the weekends lately, I have to (kind of) think about my waistline during the week. This recipe is a great cold-weather comfort food, and, with a little substitutions, you can make it not ridiculously calorie-laden. Plus, it's pretty easy, especially if you make your meatballs before hand.

You will need:
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic
parsley (dried or fresh)
olive oil
1 pkg McCormick's (or whatever) beef stroganoff sauce mix (the little dry packages)
1 c. water
8 oz low fat or fat-free sour cream
1 bag egg noodles
1 small can mushrooms (if you like)
S&P (taste)

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add onions, garlic, parsley, and S&P to ground turkey meat. Mix together, and roll into meatballs (I'm sure you guys are smart enough to figure this part out). Heat oil in skillet (or you can use Pam or another non-stick cooking spray for even less calories), and cook your meatballs. Remove, drain (or whatever to get rid of any excess grease), and then return to pan and add mushrooms. Stir in stroganoff mix and water, and simmer 10 minutes, covered (I'm pretty sure this is on the back of the mix packet). In the mean time, boil your noodles. Reduce heat and stir in sour cream, followed by your noodles. Serve.

I got this recipe from a family friend who taught me "healthier" variations of some pretty good dishes. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

For some odd reason, as soon as I can feel/smell that fall crisp in the air, I have the insane desire to bake pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I think they're the perfect fall dessert. I tried a new recipe tonight from; they were a bit cakey but still pretty good. Also, I didn't put the nuts in mine, and used dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Yummy if you like dark chocolate!

1 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 TBSP. vanilla extract
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake for approx. 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Typing these directions, I realized I put an entire can of pumpkin in the recipe instead of just 1 cup. Perhaps that would explain the cakey-ness. LOL. **Typical me!** :)

Hope you enjoy!


Monday, November 8, 2010

The Kickoff Meal

Ok, kiddos here it is: the first batch of recipes from AJ's Kitchen. I decided that, like a fashion show, this blog should start off with a bang: a mouth-watering, delectable meal that would make you want to come back to my blog over and over again and steal my delicious secrets. ;) And what better meal to start with than the birthday feast I prepared last night for my boyfriend's birthday! 4 hours of careful cooking, and if he isn't out looking for a ring after that, he never will be (kidding if you're reading this babe). Seriously though, I pretty much outdid myself. The recipes are a bit time-intensive, but I promise you and your dinner guests will try to commit food suicide (read: eat til you die) on these yummy recipes.

Spinach and Cream Cheese Stuffed Steak
Boursin Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Asparagus Bundles
Carrot Cake

Spinach and Cream Cheese Stuffed Steak (serves 4)

You will need:
1 1/2 lb flank steak
meat tenderizer
black pepper
1 10oz pk. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
4 oz (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese (make sure its the real stuff)
2 cloves garlic
2-3 spring onions (taste)
8(ish) strips of bacon

Sprinkle steak with meat tenderizer and pound with a meat mallet until 1/4" thick. Sprinkle both sides with crushed black pepper, cover, and put in refrigerator to sit (I left mine in for approx. 2 hours). In a medium size mixing bowl, combine spinach, cream cheese, garlic, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and onions into a delicious, gooey mixture. Keep yourself from eating said mixture. Spread evenly onto flank steak, roll up, and secure with toothpicks. Wrap in bacon (also secured with toothpicks). Place back into the refrigerator to "set" - about an hour. Preheat your oven to 375, and cook uncovered for about an hour (30 mins if you're lucky enough to have a convection oven), or until desired meat-doneness (is that a word???). Slice lengthwise for "pinwheels," eat, and thank the heavens you stumbled upon this recipe.

This one partially came from, but did a little bit of my own thing with it. Cooking times will vary; for me it was really a feel thing. Also, I cooked mine on a jelly roll pan, but you may want to try putting it on one of those perforated cookie sheet things that sits on top of a deeper pan (I hope you guys know what I'm talking about here) so the bacon grease drips down and away from the meat. It was still out-of-this-world delicious, but definitely a thought for the next time I make this.

Boursin Cheese Mashed Potatoes (I might rename this "AJ's Specialty Potatoes")

You will need:
2 lbs new potatoes
1 pk garlic and herb Boursin cheese
1/4 c. whole milk
2 TBSP butter (go for the gold here)
4 oz sour cream (or whatever you like)
2 cloves garlic
3-4 spring onions (taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Cube and boil potatoes until tender, skin on or off (your choice, but I like skin on). Mash with masher, add everything, using sour cream and milk sparingly, and to taste. Whip until fluffy and celebrate.

I got this recipe from the Boursin cheese website (, but added the sour cream, spring onions (hey, I had them around from the Steak recipe anyway), garlic and butter. YUM.

Asparagus Bundles - super easy!

You will need:
1 bunch asparagus
1 squash
olive oil
Kosher salt

Slice squash width-wise in 1/3" slices. Boil for 3-5 mins, or until tender. Wash and snap ends off asparagus. Remove squash, set aside to cool. When squash is cool, insert asparagus into squash rings to make "bundles." Drizzle with olive oil and Kosher salt, place in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 375 for 10 mins or until tender.

I got this recipe from my mom; not sure where she got it either. I put them in the oven the last few minutes I was baking the Steak, and they turned out great. Super east and they look very impressive!

And, for the piece-de-resistance.......

Carrot Cake

You will need:
Butter, for pan
2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 c. grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, optional


2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
1 (16-oz) box powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 3 9" round pans; line bottom of pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and pecans, if using. Pour into pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy using a hand mixer. Stir in the nuts. Spread frosting on top of each cake layer. Stack the cakes on a serving plate and serve.

I absolutely stole this recipe from Paula Deen (, and it was the best carrot cake I've ever had. I like a super moist cake, so only baked it for 30 mins and removed them from the pans and set them aside on their parchment paper. Also, I did not put nuts in my icing, but that's because I don't like nuts in my icing (go figure). Instead, I used the extra pecans around the sides of the cake, and even The Boy commented on how pretty it looked. Paula, you rock.

So there it is folks, 4 of the most yummy things I've ever made. The Boy really enjoyed his birthday feast, and we nearly ate ourselves into a coma. As for me, I'm thinking of sneaking over there later today and stealing a piece of that carrot cake.

Happy eating!